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Assif Tsahar & Hamid Drake - Soul Bodies, vol.2

Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic

Openness and empathy are paramount to the duet format, whether the crepuscular tone poems of Alex Cline and Jamil Shabaka (Duo Infinity, Aten, 1977) or the muscular displays of Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe (Duo Exchange, Survival, 1972). It takes a pared-down language to truly portray a musician, even a well-known figure like Hamid Drake, whose pedigree stretches a mile long from reggae and funk groups in the 70s to more recent highly acclaimed work with reedmen Fred Anderson and Peter Brötzmann. Recorded just over three years ago at Stockholm’s showcase for adventurous improvised music, the Glenn Miller Café, this second volume of duets between Drake and Israeli-born tenorman Assif Tsahar (the first was Soul Bodies, Ayler 024) provides an hour’s worth of tight, dialectic-smashing conversations of stately Newk-Trane phrase wringing, jubilant calypso and funk salvos – they even close with “St. Thomas”. With similarly West Indian ebullience, Peter Kowald’s composition “Mother and Father” evokes both Rollins and Don Cherry, as Tsahar’s visceral, skunky verses make clear. “Warriors of Stillness” features a more typically heavy backbeat performance from Drake, but jagged skronk is as much part of the equation as he and Tsahar make a run for a rather vast conceptual palette, from biting free exchanges on “Praying Mantis” to the mean multiphonics-laced blues of “Handling Clouds,” on which Drake settles into an easy swing of cross-rhythms and momentary stalls. Strong and highly nuanced tenor-drums interplay, worth investigating by both fans and converts.